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Two jailed for power theft

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 17 April 2014 | 22.10

NEW DELHI: Two persons accused of stealing electricity in separate incidents have been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment by Special Courts of Electricity.

Mohammad Arif, a resident of Sarita Vihar and Radhey Shyam Giri, a factory owner in east Delhi, have been convicted by Special Courts of Electricity, Saket and Karkardooma respectively for power theft and sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment each. Arif has also been penalized Rs 2.9 lakh and a further jail term of six months in case he defaults.

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Bus manufacturers fined, but breakdowns still order of day

NEW DELHI: Last year, between April and September 2013, Delhi Transport Corporation penalized the two manufacturers of its fleet a substantial Rs 20.08 crore. The penalty was for breakdowns of the low floor buses that were procured by DTC in 2010 and are maintained by Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland as part of their service contract.

Breakdowns, however, continue unabated. In February this year, the figure was 3.58 buses breaking down every 10,000km. DTC sources say that the unofficial figure is even higher. "More than 350 buses break down every day. A majority are low floor," added the official.

The reasons were varied-mechanical, electrical as well as tyre-related issues. "Despite the steep penalty, the number of breakdowns has been high. With the fleet ageing, the number has been going up," admitted a senior official from transport department. And while DTC claims it has been penalizing the two manufacturers-it's Rs 2,000 per breakdown, the fact is that buses can be seen stuck on city roads, leading to massive jams and traffic chaos.

The breakdowns, say officials, happened despite the annual maintenance contract. For instance, this time last year, the number of breakdowns per day had reached a massive 350-390, out of a fleet of 4,000-odd operational buses. On April 12, 13 and 14, 2013, the number of breakdowns reported was 341, 251 and 209 (both AC and non-AC buses), as per DTC records. The type of breakdowns was numerous-engine defects, clutch defects, tyre punctures, starting trouble, buses not being able to pull their weight, and other type of breakdowns including headlights not working, oil leakages, problems with driving shafts, etc.

This year it's no different. While DTC insists that the number of buses breaking down has been kept in check, sources said that at least 350 buses reported some problem every day, while out-shedding-that is leaving the depot-and through the course of the day. "As summer goes by, air conditioner-related problems are the most reported in the air-conditioned semi-floor buses while in the non-air-conditioned buses, the breakdowns are related to engine defects and leakages," added the official.

DTC pays both manufacturers for maintenance of the buses. For the AC buses, the rate is Rs 4.10 per km for the first 75,000km or one year, Rs 5 per km for 1.5 lakh km or two years and Rs 7.10 per km for 2.1 lakh km or three years, whichever is later. For non-AC buses, the annual maintenance contract stipulates Rs 3.20 per km, Rs 4.60 per km and Rs 6.50 per km, respectively. The AMC is effective for three years in total and was negotiated by DTC after the low floor buses started breaking down after purchase, officials say.

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Delhi HC: Sentencing bench to hear remaining pleas in Katara case

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday said all subsisting applications filed in the Nitish Katara murder case will be heard by the bench which will hear arguments on the sentence to be awarded to UP politician D P Yadav's son Vikas and two others.

A special bench of justices Gita Mittal and V K Shali said it is the "prerogative" of the bench, hearing the arguments on the sentence, to decide the applications, which include a plea against the Yadav's seeking permission several times to avail medical help in private hospitals.

The counsel, appearing for the Yadavs, had contended before the court that the purpose behind the applications filed against Yadav's plea seeking medical treatment outside the jail has "served its purpose". He said that as a result of the applications as well as the court's observations on the same, it is now difficult for them to avail medical treatment even in government hospitals. He also raised the issue of sentencing, saying that with the convicts' appeals having been dismissed the only remaining possibility is enhancement of their punishment, as the petitions remaining are those filed by the police and Neelam Katara, the victim's mother.

The trial court had awarded life sentence to Vikas, his cousin Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Pehalwan for the murder of Nitish.

Nitish, belonging to Katara caste, was abducted and killed by Vikas, Vishal and Pehalwan as the Yadavs did not approve the victim's affair with Bharti, daughter of D P Yadav, as they belong to different castes, the high court had said while upholding their conviction on April 3.

The high court has, however, decided to hear arguments on quantum of sentence to be awarded on April 25.

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Limited infra for pesticide check: Govt

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government today told the Delhi High Court that it has limited infrastructure in the laboratories for testing pesticides in fruits and vegetables but has chalked out plans to inform the public about its side effects.

The Delhi government submitted that currently only 28 varieties of pesticides can be tested in its laboratories.

The city government in its affidavit submitted that a "Pesticide Residue Management Cell (PRMC)" has been constituted under the control of the Food Commissioner and it has also translated the information in Hindi, Gurumukhi and Urdu.

Perusing the submissions by the state government, the division bench of acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul asked the govt to file a supplementary affidavit detailing steps which it intends to take for expanding its infrastructure.

The court also asked the Ministry of Agriculture to file an affidavit within four weeks regarding long and short-term measures to minimise the harm and make people aware about the "ways and means" to deal with the situation.

The court directed amicus curiae Sanjay Jain to go through the steps taken by the state government and give his suggestions on the next date of hearing, May 21.

"Prima facie, it appears that some short-term measures have been taken by the NCT government although we find that with regard to sample-testing of fruits and vegatables on monthly basis, the report of the government is not to our satisfaction," the bench said.

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Rain likely in Delhi today

NEW DELHI: It was a pleasant Thursday morning in Delhi with a minimum temperature at 20.2 degrees Celsius. The Met Office has forecast brief spells of rain in some parts of the city in the day.

"There may be few spells of rain, thundershower in some parts of the city. The maximum temperature is likely to hover around 33 degrees Celsius," said an India Meteorological Department official.

Humidity at 8.30am was 60 per cent.

Wednesday's minimum temperature was 19.8 degrees Celsius, while the maximum stood at 34.2 degrees Celsius.

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Govt school seeds its best in 'cloud'

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 16 April 2014 | 22.10

NEW DELHI: In a tiny room in a south Delhi government school, runs another school "in the cloud".

There are computers here in place of textbooks; a flat-screen television in place of a blackboard and a "granny" from Canada instead of a teacher who, in a bizarre reversal of roles, sits at the back taking notes while the 'students' Skype.

The Delhi school in the Cloud is run from the premises of a formal school but constitutes an experiment which questions the fundamental principles of formal schooling.

"The assumption is that kids need to be lectured," explains psychologist Ritu Dangwal who's been collaborating with scientist and educator Sugata Mitra from the "hole-in-the-wall" experiment days. "But Prof Mitra has demonstrated that kids can learn on their own. Also, these kids have never been heard before," Dangwal added.

The more technical term for the School in the Cloud is "self-organizing learning environment" (SOLE) and the concept originated with Sugata Mitra's "hole-in-the-wall" experiment in the late 90s.

The Delhi laboratory has three computers with internet connection and a television. Students gather for hourlong sessions with the "granny" - a volunteer who's willing to help initiate and steer discussions with the group.

On Tuesday, a batch of seventh-graders introduce themselves to the 52-year-old Ron Grypma from Vancouver, and also tell him about their siblings and their favourite food - Khushbu says "cauliflower" and her teacher, Rekha Mishra, promptly goes into a giggling fit.

In turn, they learn that Grympa has three kids, his best friend is a lawyer called Cosmas from Netherlands, and that Netherlands is in Europe. If that doesn't seem much of an achievement, consider this.

By the end of their first hourlong session, a group that has never handled computers figure out how to type in their responses, shift back to full-screen when the window is accidentally minimized and re-establish connection when it snaps mid-conversation. Dangwal gets up twice to help, but each time the girls fix it before she can get to the laptop.

"I think the children didn't have much exposure to computers before," says Grypma, once the session is over. "I found what Prof Mitra is doing very intriguing," he says, "I heard his speech and read his research papers." Grypma himself is working on a master's degree in education technology.

The senior secondary school which houses the Delhi SOLE has a regular roll-strength of over 2,000, nearly all coming from the neighbouring slums.

The SOLE sessions are planned in a way they don't interfere with the school's regular schedule or require participants - each Class (VI-VIII) has three groups of 15. The school principal and teachers selected the candidates to attend these sessions following an equally informal method.

They went by "questions answered smartly", "a little bit of academic excellence" and that least scientific of all indicators - "the light in their eyes."

However, an initial reading and comprehension test had been conducted, says Dangwal, and the participants will be tested on their "aspiration and confidence" every four months. "This is part of a research study that will continue for three years," she adds.

But this education is practically contraband, smuggled in "clandestinely" as the principal puts it. Government permission for this project is yet to be obtained. As the 'file' traversed government departments, the principal launched the lab anyway arguing that if she didn't, she'd "always regret it".

"Now, with technology, a child's mind should gallop," she says, "But most of them come to school like blinkered horses." Computer labs were introduced but there's no maintenance of these. She says she's "past the stage" of fearing the government's disapproval. "If they question, I'll just say sorry."

(Name of teacher changed to conceal identity)

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'Transgenders can enter mainstream'

NEW DELHI: For long, transgenders have been an oppressed sexual minority in India. But the Supreme Court's landmark judgment on Tuesday is set to end the exploitation of the transgender community by giving them their most basic human rights.

A welcome step, as the legal fraternity likes to call it, the SC's judgment will help in bringing the transgenders in the mainstream. "The judgment has paved the way for the transgenders to be a part of the mainstream. It has made it easier for them to get jobs, education, like any other sex without discrimination. What still needs to change is the mindset of people and the judgement is a good start," said Anand Grover of the Lawyers Collective, who represented Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a eunuch and transgender rights activist, in the matter.

While hearing the matter, the SC also came across the stories of a few transgenders who were discriminated against and were exploited for their gender identity. Laxmi, who was an intervener in the matter, also shared her story with the apex court to drive her point home. As the SC pronounced its order on Tuesday morning, an elated Lakshmi said, "I am very happy with the judgment. The progress of the country is dependent on human rights of the people and we are very happy as the SC has given us those rights."

This judgment comes at a time when the apex court has agreed to consider the curative petition filed in the Supreme Court against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes same-sex intercourse. Whether it will have a positive influence, it is premature to ascertain, yet the legal fraternity feels that it's a start. "They are two opposite judgments. We hope that this judgment will help us in the other case," Grover said. Grover's remarks were second by human rights lawyer Ashok Arora, who said the verdict will help the society grow better.

The SC's order giving hijras and eunuchs 'Third Gender' identity and ordering their inclusion among Other Backward Class (OBC) communities to avail 27% reservation in government educational institutions has put India on the world map as a country which is sensitive towards sexual minority. The apex court observed that the recognition of "sex identity gender" of persons, and "guarantee to equality and non-discrimination" on the ground of gender identity or expression was "gaining acceptance in international law and, therefore, be applied in India as well".

Last year, Germany came out with a new law which allowed the parents to register the sex of the children as 'not specified' in the case of children with intersex variation. In 2012, the Senate of Argentina passed a law on Gender Identity that recognizes right by all persons to the recognition of their gender identity as well as free development of their person according to their gender identity. It also allowed a person to request that their recorded sex be amended along with the changes in first name and image, whenever they do not agree with the self-perceived gender identity. The same year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan also held that transgenders be given equal basic rights as all citizens.

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No more invisible: Hijras celebrate new 'weapon'

NEW DELHI: "We have been given a weapon to defend ourselves," Simran Shaikh, a hijra activist of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, said about the SC judgment which has made the third gender official. So far, hijras and transgenders were legally invisible in India, making it very difficult for them to find mainstream jobs, education, proper medical treatment, and use their voting rights. But now they are celebrating and describe the judgment as "landmark" and "revolutionary". Some of them believe it can help end historical exclusion, oppression and violence towards transgenders.

"Hijras have the worst quality of life that we can imagine," said Vikram Sahai, member of the Gender Studies Group at Delhi University. They lack access to crucial public services and are discriminated against and harassed on a daily basis, he explained. Left without options, many hijras are forced to beg or do sex work, which deepens the stigma attached to them.

All the activists TOI interviewed stressed that changing people's mindset is most important and the judgment can make it possible. Abhina Aher, a hijra activist who works for India HIV/AIDS Alliance, said prejudice, discrimination and violence make life hard for transgenders. "A strong statement has been made about it."

Aware of this, workers of Society for Peoples' Awareness, Care & Empowerment (SPACE) are planning to conduct awareness meetings-first with transgenders and then with the general public. "In the same way there were myths about AIDS back in the 1980s, there are myths and lack of awareness about hijras," said Shaikh. Activists said a lot of work needs to be done within the community to spread awareness about their right to get education and work.

Akkai Padmashali, transsexual activist from Karnataka, said changing their legal status will eventually change hijras' social, medical and emotional position in society. "It gives us the right to choose our gender identity and will help our families accept us," she said, adding, "Finally, the state has taken the responsibility to take care of one of the most socially backward groups."

The third gender will be entitled to special welfare programmes and equal access to services. Amitava Sarkar, who identifies herself as a transgender, stressed that educating healthcare and educational service providers is very important. "We have to sensitize them and make it clear that they should help the third gender as much as they help the others", Sarkar said. Small needs, such as special public toilets for the third gender, also need to be fulfilled. Using women's or men's conveniences often becomes a pretext for grave violence against hijras, social workers told TOI.

So far, it has been almost impossible for hijras to get jobs in banks and public offices. But transgenders will now be treated as socially and economically backward classes, which means they will also be employed in the civil service. "We can use this law to influence the corporate sector," said Shaikh. "Recognition as other backward classes (OBC) could change the whole scenario, even politically. This will help the community to access and exercise its due rights," said Anjan Joshi, executive director of SPACE.

However, nothing will change overnight, he stressed. "It will take quite a while to sensitize the general community." And there are many doubts. Sahai called the Supreme Court judgment a minor symbolic victory. Akkai Padmashali wondered how many political leaders will speak in favour of the community. And the others announced they will pressure the government, ministers, and educational and healthcare institutions to include the third gender.

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Exclusive club gives hijras space & dignity

NEW DELHI: Mehek lost her behind-the-scenes job as an embroiderer at a Hyderabad boutique four years ago when a client came to know she is a transgender. For two years she couldn't find a job in the southern city, and finally packed up and came to Delhi.

"I slept on the street and went without food for days, but couldn't find work as the social stigma against transgenders is deeply ingrained," she says. Mehek's luck turned when she found her way to Zeenat Club in Khajuri, northeast Delhi. An exclusive club for the hijra community and other transgenders, it works against transphobia and provides free grooming, legal aid and entertainment, as also employment. The club has a parlour, boutique and free counselling centre.

Like Mehek, who teaches embroidery at the club, hundreds of harassed transgenders have found refuge there. Prema is one of them. A beautician, she is always in demand. "We are like any other woman. We also need to go to a parlour regularly but hardly any allows us in." Prema gives free beauty treatment to all the hijras in the area. It's a hijra-exclusive parlour, so men and women aren't served.

Mallica, a counsellor at the club, visits her family in Ashok Vihar every alternate day. "We are disowned by our families, but here I have found home. My family took a lot of time to accept me," she said.

Like its transgender members, the club has had its share of travails. It took them a month to rent a place in Bhajanpura, in 2012. Last year, they shifted to Khajuri but ran into opposition from the other residents. "They said we would be a bad influence on children. They even threatened to install an iron gate at the entrance of the lane but we got an order from the corporation," said Anjan Joshi of the NGO, Society for Peoples' Awareness, Care & Empowerment (SPACE). The NGO has now got land from the government in the Kashmere Gate area to build a recreational centre for transgenders. "Kapil Sibal came for the inauguration on April 13," he claimed.

Last year, the NGO organized a fashion show. However, all the designers it approached refused to let transgender people model for them, fearing their image and business would get hurt. "Being gay is still fine, but the situation is bad for hijras," said Joshi. Welcoming the SC order, he said he hopes more Zeenat Clubs will be formed in the city. "Zeenat means beautiful, and all hijras are Zeenats in this club.

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Gas shortage cripples power plants in capital

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government's 1500MW gas-based plant in Bawana has been in the news for the past few years because of the gas crisis. The plant was pitched as a solution to the capital's dependence on other states for meeting its power demand. But, shortage of gas to operate the plant has made it more of a liability.

Discoms have not yet sourced power from the plant this season. But with the temperature rising, they may be left with no choice. The peak demand this year is expected to be about 6200MW.

Currently, discoms are able to source power from other places at a cheaper cost. "The plant functions irregularly because of gas shortage. This raises the cost of power generation. Regular gas supply would bring down the costs substantially. However, the government doesn't run the plant to full capacity and that deters us from sourcing power from it,'' said a discom official.

It is not just the Bawana plant which is suffering because of the gas crisis, Tata Power's 108MW plant in Rithala has become almost redundant because of no gas availability. "We try to source the cheapest power available. If the power produced from Bawana costs about Rs 5-6 per unit, even DERC will ask why we are sourcing power from there when economically viable options are available. Power from Bawana will not become affordable till they have a regular supply of gas,'' said an official. At present, the Bawana plant is in shutdown mode because of which discoms have not sought power from it yet.

The Bawana power project, built at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore, could produce at least 750MW from the first cycle if it had enough gas. But it has barely managed to produce 250 MW since the first cycle was commissioned. Similarly, the proposed power plant at Bamnauli is also stuck as the government has been unable to arrange any gas for the plant, an official said.

Out of the six power stations that supply electricity only to Delhi, four are dependent on gas. Coal-based Indraprastha power station had shut in 2010 and another thermal station-Rajghat powerhouse-with an installed capacity of 135MW is also due to close operations soon. There are also plans to convert three out of five units at NTPC's coal-based Badarpur power station to gas.

"The government is phasing out coal-based power stations for Delhi due to environment concerns. But with gas shortage looming large, production by gas stations is severely limited. There is hardly any gas available in the country and the cost of producing power from imported gas will make it too expensive," said a senior official.

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